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OakStBeachBum

Walnut desk finishing question

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Hey WTF crowd - was hoping to get some input on a finishing question related to a desk that I am making for my girlfriend (sketchup design provided for reference). The primary wood is walnut with some holly trim accents.

Here's what I know:

  • She's going to use the desk in her office where she sees clients so she is somewhat particular about how it looks (prefers a more satin look)
  • She likes the appearance of one of my previous projects where i used boiled linseed oil under 5-6 coats of amber shellac and buffed with steel wool/paste wax

The linseed/shellac/wax finish seems like it wouldn't offer very much protection for a piece of furniture that's going to see frequent (albeit delicate) use. Here are the things I'm considering:

  • Option 1: go with what worked before that she seems to like - office usage doesn't demand any more protection that the shellac will provide.
  • Option 2: boiled linseed oil, 5-6 coats of de-waxed amber shellac, 2 coats of General Finishes satin polyurethane
  • Option 3: boiled linseed oil, 5-6 coats of de-waxed amber shellac, 2 coats of water based satin polyurethane
  • Option 4: boiled linseed oil, 2 coats of de-waxed amber shellac, 4 coats of General Finshes satin polyurethane
  • Option 5: boiled linseed oil, 2-4 coats of de-waxed amber shellac, 2-4 coats of spray lacquer
  • Option 6: something else altogether

I want to make sure this is something she is happy with so she'll ask me to help out on future projects - pressure is on! Thanks in advance!

desk profile 2.jpg

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WTF crowd is a good name!!   On the horse forums I frequent, there's a polite term used instead, when someone feels the need to make the comment-Where's The Fruitbat

Sorry, no help on your finishing request.  There are plenty here more capable than me on finishing.

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Personally, I like Arm-R-Seal to really make Walnut pop and then follow up with 4 or 5 coats of General Finishes WP poly (High Performance) sprayed on.  Holds up well and repairs aren't difficult.  No VOCs is a killer bonus!

 

Welcome to the forums.

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I think you will find shellac a lot tougher than folks give it credit for. For best results, mix your own from flakes, and let it cure for a couple of weeks before putting it in the office. As long as alcohol and hot coffee mugs are kept out of direct contact, it will look great for many years.

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I would use 1 coat of Arm-R-Seal. Let it dry for a good week or two. Then use General Finishes Enduro-Var as a topcoat. Both will impart an amber tone which will warm the walnut. Just did a project with curly walnut and it came out great.

 

-Ace-

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I'd nix the BLO with the holly isn't that just going to make the stark white turn ear wax yellow? If your going to turn the wood yellow i'd save the expensive wood and go maple stringing. If the holly is a must to stop it from yellowing a lot i'd do  the amber shellac and then endurovar or another WB poly. If you want to use holly and you want  it you be yellow i'd do option 4.

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You mentioned Girlfriend. Did you work out the details that if the Boyfriend Girlfriend "thing" didn't work out, who gets to keep the desk?  This desk could very well turn out to be your very very very best work, EVER!. So if no money changes hands, what's the understanding? :D

Having a little fun with ya!!! 

 

-Ace-

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I would use thin coats (wipe on wipe off) of of satin ARS. As for the number of coats - stop when you get the look you want.  Some people, myself included,  when applying severa coats, will use gloss ARS for the first coats and then switch to satin for the last one or 2 coats.       Others here would use satin for all of the coats - your choice.

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On 4/4/2018 at 3:52 PM, Ronn W said:

I would use thin coats (wipe on wipe off) of of satin ARS. As for the number of coats - stop when you get the look you want.  Some people, myself included,  when applying severa coats, will use gloss ARS for the first coats and then switch to satin for the last one or 2 coats.       Others here would use satin for all of the coats - your choice.

Ronn, I’ve heard that on here before. What is the advantage of using gloss for the first and satin for the last as opposed to using all satin? It can’t be the cost. 

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If you intent to have a thicker finish the thinking is that there more coats of satin you use the more opaque the finisha nd the grain is not as distinct and sharp to the eye.  If the frist coats are clear the grain appears sharper and the final coat fo stain gives you the sheen you want.

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A few coats of an oil-based poly OR shellac will give you a durable, beatiful finish. Theres no reason to layer up all these finishes. Arm r Seal and Minwax Wiping Poly are practically foolproof for amazing results on walnut and have both proven quite durable for me.

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On 4/5/2018 at 8:17 PM, K Cooper said:

Ronn, I’ve heard that on here before. What is the advantage of using gloss for the first and satin for the last as opposed to using all satin? It can’t be the cost. 

The satin comes at a cost of clarity. The reason you have to mix satin more is because it contains flatteners, which can fall out of suspension. So, if you do lots of layers of satin, it is layer upon layer of flatteners, which makes things cloudier/less sharp. I think in many cases the difference is probably a bit overstated, but it is a real issue, and the pros all seem to agree on it. Go clear/gloss all the way up to the final coat where you switch and add Satin to get the muted sheen.

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On 4/4/2018 at 7:27 AM, Chestnut said:

I'd nix the BLO with the holly isn't that just going to make the stark white turn ear wax yellow? If your going to turn the wood yellow i'd save the expensive wood and go maple stringing. If the holly is a must to stop it from yellowing a lot i'd do  the amber shellac and then endurovar or another WB poly. If you want to use holly and you want  it you be yellow i'd do option 4.

Great point that I hadn't considered. Would it be possible to use painter's tape to keep the BLO off of the holly? There seems to be a definite preference for having some sort of oil under the topcoat.

Thanks for the feedback guys - this is really helpful!

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I've had bad luck with painters tape keeping oils and finishes away on wood. Figure out what wood you want to highlight and finish to make that wood pop. I also don't get the crowd that insists that walnut needs any thing more than a top coat. I've tried them and all i can tell is it takes a heck of a lot more work.

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I'm with Kev. The Arm R Seal by General finishes will make the walnut pop, but try it on the Holly before you decide to use it, it might amber it up a touch. General Finishes  High Performance is a great finish.

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If you really want the look of oiled walnut, you CAN oil it prior to adding the holly inlay. Give it a while to cure before cutting the inlay channels, and be careful with the glue so cleanup isn't too aggressive.

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17 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

If you really want the look of oiled walnut, you CAN oil it prior to adding the holly inlay. Give it a while to cure before cutting the inlay channels, and be careful with the glue so cleanup isn't too aggressive.

Interesting. Any reason why I couldn't go ahead and cut the inlay channel, pre-finish, oil with BLO (avoiding the channel but not getting too bent out of shape if some gets inside), and then glue in the inlay? Would the oil interfere with the glue bond? What if I used something other than yellow glue?

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You might try oiling a scrap of walnut then cut the channel for the holly & glue it in. But that might make sanding it flush tricky. 

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The end result is beautiful, but I'm concerned that wood movement is going to blow the top apart, unless it's veneer on ply or MDF.

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That would be my concern as we. Other than that, there’s nothing I don’t like!

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3 hours ago, drzaius said:

The end result is beautiful, but I'm concerned that wood movement is going to blow the top apart, unless it's veneer on ply or MDF.

It is all hardwood other than the drawer boxes and some of the internal supports (combination of ply and poplar). The top is attached to the sides exclusively using loose tenons.  The mortises are tight around the tenons at the very front of the desk but increasingly loose (as much as 3/8" of horizontal space) toward the back of the desk. No glue was used around anything but the front tenons. My thought was to direct the wood movement to the back of the desk which will probably be up against a wall anyway. 

I appreciate the feedback.

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